Go-to Guac

I have a severe weakness for tortilla chips. I rarely leave the grocery store without them. My current favorite are blue corn tortilla chips, but the black bean and quinoa tortilla chips from Trader Joe’s are quickly moving up the list. I could probably sit here for a while talking about how much I love them, but that would get boring pretty quickly. So, moving on…

Because I consider tortilla chips to be the best snack food, I’m a sucker for anything that goes with them: salsa, queso, dips, and of course, guacamole. I love guacamole because it never quite turns out exactly the same twice, but it’s equally wonderful every time. I have a standard recipe I usually follow, but feel free to add your own variations according to what you like!

You will need:

  • About 3 medium avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lime
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 small tomato, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Place the avocados in a medium bowl and mash them. For a creamier texture, add the Greek yogurt and mix. Mix in the red onion and garlic. If you’re using red pepper and/or tomato, mix them in as well.

Stir in grated zest of 1 lime and fresh squeezed juice of half of the lime. Mix in cilantro (dried or fresh), salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Break out the tortilla chips and dig in!

I always have red onion in my kitchen, but I don’t always keep red peppers and tomatoes, which is why I consider those to be optional. They’ll add a little more texture, color, and flavor, but I often do without. Greek yogurt makes the guac a little fuller and creamier. I usually add it if I have fewer avocados and still want the same size batch.

Also, if you’ve never made guacamole before, be aware that it will turn brown pretty quickly even if it’s in tupperware. Science has never been my best subject, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with oxidation (I’ll let Poncie handle all science lessons). To prevent the browning, put lemon juice or oil spray on a piece of plastic wrap and place it directly on the surface of the guac before you refrigerate it. Guacamole lasts several days in the fridge, so even if it does start to turn brown on top, just stir it up to reveal the lovely green underneath. It will still taste wonderful even if it isn’t quite as pretty as when you first made it!

UPDATE 12/30/12: I recently attended a Christmas party and wanted to change up my guacamole recipe for the holiday occasion. I made my basic guac, but instead of adding in the tomatoes or red pepper, I used pomegranate seeds. They added a beautiful holiday color and fun flavor to the dish that went over extremely well with all the party guests. I had people coming up to me all evening telling me how much they enjoyed the twist on the typical appetizer.

(everything but the kitchen sink) Vegetable Soup

It’s starting to get cold in Boston, so today was the day to break out the slow cooker.  I found a vegetable soup recipe but I decided to use all the dib dabs in my cabinet.

The great thing about slow cookers is that they’re easy.  The great thing about vegetable soup is that you can put almost anything in it. Put them together and you have lazy winter weekend cooking.

Necessary Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 box vegetable broth (I use low sodium)
  • 1 box quinoa
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt/pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients:

  • Green beans
  • Bell peppers
  • Black beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • potatoes

Preparation:

  1. Start by dicing all your vegetables. 1/4 inch is a good estimate.
  2. Mince or press garlic. Add to medium size skillet with diced onion and olive oil. Cook over medium low heat until fragrant (2 min ish).

  1. Add carrots and celery. Stir and cook all for about 10 minutes, or until onions have begun to soften and become translucent.
  2. Pull out your trusty slow cooker.  If you don’t have one, you can also use a large pot and simmer on the stove. I like equipment.
  3. Add vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, and herbs to pot.  If using dried beans, add them now. I presoaked my beans in hot water for about an hour, but figured that simmering them in the slow cooker would take care of the rest.
  4. Add carrot/celery/onion mixture to pot.  Turn on and leave for two hours, or until beans and carrots are both soft.
  5. Add potatoes if using.
  6. Cook your quinoa according to the directions on the box.  Add the rinsed quinoa to boiling water, turn stove to simmer and leave for 10 minutes.
  7. Once potatoes are nearly soft, add your fast cooking vegetables, like green beans and peppers.
  8. Add quinoa, leave soup to simmer until all vegetable are tender.

I like to add some kale or spinach to my soup just before serving – it makes the greens soften without overcooking them, and helps cool down hot soup!